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Giving credit where it’s due 

Thanks for these surprising recommendations on fracking

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On Thursday, something truly miraculous happened. Something that happens once in a blue moon, in a dog’s age, in a right smart spell—the environmental movement won something. And it was good.

The Wheeler panel on fracking turned over its recommendations to Energy Minister Andrew Younger, and they were a lot better than most people were expecting. Wheeler’s top recommendations are that fracking “should not proceed at the present moment,” that scientific and community research needs to be done on a breadth of impacts for “all forms of energy production and use,” and that the province must “design and recognize the test of a community permission” before any fracking exploration or extraction happen.

The very first words following the authors’ names are Cicero’s: “The health of the people is the highest law.”

Six months ago—even in early July—I would have said a report this good was impossible. That was before 1,500 of you from across Nova Scotia showed up to a series of public meetings and let the panel, the public and the province know that you’ve done your homework on fracking, you know the risks, you aren’t backing down and you want to see a future free from fracking.

Your united and unwavering opposition to fracking is astounding. Hundreds of you participated in the panel’s work by submitting evidence and actively reviewing their research methods and findings, and hundreds more have written letters to government and newspapers, held community discussions, done hours of research—all because you know that we can do better than to blindly depend on fracking companies for our economic and energy needs.

A few polls in 2013 showed that somewhere between 53 percent and 69 percent of people in this province oppose fracking “even if the Province had adequate regulations in place to protect the environment,” because you know instead of scrapping the bottom of the fossil fuel barrel we can invest in sustainable energy systems that don’t compromise our health, climate and communities like fracking would. You know that we can no longer allow companies who don’t care about us to pillage the land we depend on and pit our communities against each other in a jobs-versus-environment battle that won’t be won.

For all your work, I want to recognize that the Wheeler panel wouldn’t have recommended that fracking “should not proceed at the present moment” if you hadn’t proven the total lack of social license to do otherwise.

Let’s also recognize that Energy Minister Andrew Younger likely won’t take these recommendations seriously unless we remove his social license to do otherwise.

On Thursday, Mr. Younger said he’d make a statement about fracking and the Wheeler recommendations by September 25. He’s been so far unclear about whether that will be the birthday of our first true legislated moratorium on fracking, or if that will be the day he announces a plan of some other, more dubious, kind. What we do know is we’ve got three weeks to show Mr. Younger that it’s moratorium or bust.

We’ve proven we have the power to get what we need. What we needed before was to push Dr. Wheeler’s panel to make good recommendations to Andrew Younger. What we need now is Mr. Younger to listen to those recommendations and legislate a moratorium on fracking.

So pick up your phones, give his office a ring, write a letter—better yet, write a letter every day. Put up signs on your lawn and in your windows—we’ve got about 700 here at the EAC and they’re yours for the taking. Let Younger know what you want via Twitter; he’s likely to reply—he once replied to my fracking tweets for three days straight! Check out these other actions you can take, or make up your own and get down to business.

We know we have the time, we’ve proved we have the power, and we have a unique opportunity to earn the moratorium on fracking we need. I’m honoured to carry on this work along side each and every one of you. —Robin Tress is a climate justice organizer in Halifax currently working with the Ecology Action Centre to earn a legislated moratorium on fracking.

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